A Match at the Ends of the Earth

By David Valolao | Drama
A depressed man connects with an old friend and rediscovers life.

Luigi is a widower whose wife passed away, and he is having a hard time pulling himself out of his grief. He doesn't eat the food his housekeeper prepares and never leaves his seat in the living room. His grown son Aldo is worried, stopping by to visit, but his dad is unresponsive.

But one day Luigi gets a letter from an old friend, Vittorio, from his days as a soldier during World War II. From his home in Buenos Aires, Vittorio sends his condolences. He also challenges his old friend to a long-distance chess match. As the friendship is rekindled over the game, Luigi emerges out of his depression.

Directed by David Valolao from a script co-written with Gustavo Espinoza, this warm and tender short drama is a tribute to enduring friendship and its power to help us weather the toughest parts of life. No matter how far away or how long ago that friendship was, its promise of support, understanding and companionship helps us face the difficulties of life, something that Luigi comes to understand through the course of the narrative.

The story's central character may be frozen in grief, but the film's emotional register is warmer and more dynamic, thanks to the production's stately elegance and visual richness. Thoughtful camera movements and composition and beautifully warm, lived-in colors and lighting have an appealing classicism, as does the evocative orchestral score.

The aesthetic is both restrained yet sumptuous, contrasting with the sparse dialogue and seemingly straightforward storyline. The craftsmanship does much of the storytelling here, with the help of evocative performances from the entire cast, particularly with actors Franco Olivero as Luigi and Ricardo Vianello as Aldo.

As Luigi begins to emerge out of his shell, we flashback to his friendship with Vittorio, which began in the uncertainty and gloom of impending battle. There, the two soldiers played chess to keep their anxiety at bay. Their friendship continued well past wartime and continues in unexpected ways -- ways that will help Luigi move out of his grief and back into life.

"A Match at the Ends of the Earth" ends with a reveal of just how enduring the friendship between Luigi and Aldo is, and how that one loyal bond affected the lives of more people beyond their own. It's less a clever plot twist and more about how the surfaces and events of ordinary life contain unexpected connections. But like the best twists at the end of a story, it adds a dimension of emotional meaning to the film, which honors love in all its permutations, and how much we will do for those we love and care about deeply when they need it most.




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